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Preparing vehicles for life after death

The IOSH Environmental and Waste Management Group recently hosted a webinar on ‘The international challenge with the electric vehicle (EV) batteries recycling process’ – you can watch the webinar here. We asked Veronica Scarano, a compliance and environmental expert and member of the Group, to open up the debate around this key economic, technological and environmental issue.

The recovery of end-of-life vehicle (ELV) waste has undergone important technological changes in recent changes. Tough economic times have inspired improvements in electric motor processing and metal waste recovery aimed at extracting fractions of quality materials.

The economic benefit of this has gone hand in hand with real environmental advantage: recycling secondary raw materials reduces the overall impact of landfill transfer.

Environmental concerns and government legislation in many developed and developing countries are increasingly guided by the inventor principle, which emphasises that inventors, designers, or whoever inflicts damage on the environment have a duty to repair such damage. This, in turn, has compelled manufacturers to undertake greater recycling efforts at the end-of-life stage of their products.

Design for Recycling (DFR) now has a significant role in the vehicle growth process. DFR considers all the recycling aspects and ecological factors at some point in the design stage of a vehicle in order to increase its recyclables and extend the end-of-life.

There are two main factors that influence the DFR concept in automotive engineering: disassembly and recycling.

For example, I work for technologies and electric commercial vehicle company, Arrival, which develops and uses its proprietary composite materials at very low cost. Strong but lightweight, these materials are 50 percent lighter than steel, yet are durable and resistant to damage and are recyclable.

The reprocessing of materials in ELVs requires the vehicles to be collected, depolluted and dismantled. The materials have to be sorted and shredded before being thermochemically processed. However, when the disposal of ELVs is not properly managed, this can cause environmental problems, and the European economy loses millions of tonnes of materials. This is why the European ELV Directive sets clear targets for ELVs and their components. It also prohibits the use of hazardous substances when manufacturing new vehicles (especially lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium), except on defined exemptions when there are no adequate alternatives.

The Directive's overall objective is to prevent and limit waste from end-of-life vehicles and their components and to improve the environmental performance of all economic operators involved in the life-cycle of vehicles.

Reduce, reuse and recycle is the best way to make a positive impact on our environment. It’s important to put these three things into practice, as landfill space is not unlimited and our environment is deteriorating at a faster pace. The time to act is now.

Veronica Scarano
Veronica is Compliance & Performance Manager for commercial electric vehicle company Arrival and a member of the IOSH Environmental and Waste Management Group committee


Disclaimer: The information and opinions expressed on this webpage are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).